Hero of Sparta Review
Posted by Marcel van Duyn
God of War for cheapskates
Gameloft is often panned for making games that look, play and feel similar to other titles, and its latest is no exception. Taking obvious inspiration from Sony's God of War series, this is a fairly linear 3D beat 'em up with a Greek mythology theme.
As King Argos, who has washed up on a beach somewhere and lost his entire army, you have to travel through five levels, slaying a not-so-wide variety of creatures to save the land. Although everything is rendered in 3D, the gameplay itself might as well be considered 2D: most of the time you can only advance in one direction, and although you can also go across the entire width of each path, it doesn't have much strategic use in combat. Occasionally, you'll enter a larger, more open space, but aside from, well, being larger, there's no real difference, as you'll usually still have to fight the same types and amounts of enemies here.
As in Sony's well-known franchise, you'll come across a number of different weapons through your quest, each of which handles a bit differently. Each also has a specific set of combos you can unleash by hitting buttons in a specific order. It's all a moot point though, really – once you get the second sword you can practically beat the rest of the game by using its standard attack. It's got massive range, power and knockback, making short work of anything that stands in your way.
Larger enemies can usually be finished off with a special move, which can be initiated when their health is low and you get near them. With the use of one of gaming's most hated recent inventions, the Quick-Time Event, you have to press a pattern of buttons quickly (generally two or three) in order to kill the enemy instantly. Failing any button presses will result in you taking damage and a monster that's very much still alive. Boss fights also rely largely on QTEs: the very first one in the game requires you to hit 12 buttons in a row successfully. Mess up one and you lose a large chunk of health and have to try again.
Aside from combat, there's literally nothing to the game. While Kratos at least had some platforming and puzzles to overcome, this is all done for you in Hero of Sparta. Whenever there's a "puzzle," there's an arrow on-screen indicating exactly where you need to stand and what you need to do, and whenever you need to ascend a mountain or tower, it's a matter of walking beneath a ledge and pressing the appropriate button to automatically make Argos jump and climb up, with no control whatsoever.
Across each of the game's five stages you can collect a number of jewels to increase the size of your health and energy bars, but there is no challenge in this whatsoever. Every single one of them is in plain sight and on the main path, meaning you'd have to be blind not to notice them. Defeating enemies gets you experience, which you can allocate to either the "power" or "special" stats of any of your acquired weapons. Again, you'll probably just want to pump everything you get into the second sword and completely forget everything else.
During and between stages you'll also get very small bits of storyline, but although it tries its best to come off as "epic," it usually just falls flat on its face by trying way too hard. As seems to be the standard for each Gameloft DSiWare release now, there's also very limited camera use. For each stage you beat you'll get an image of Argos, which you can choose to vandalise with your own face instead. Utterly pointless, but amusing to try once.
The graphics actually look quite good, which shows that Gameloft is definitely more than capable of taking advantage of DSiWare. The music consists of your typical heroic Greek themes and is nothing to write home about.
Although it's certainly decent in some parts, Hero of Sparta is mostly a letdown because of its incredibly short length. Each stage can be beaten in about ten minutes, so if you rush through, you can clear the entire game in under an hour. There's three different difficulty modes, the hardest of which is unlocked by beating one of the other two, but the game is so uninspiring that you're likely not willing to play through it again.
If you're truly cheap and want to experience something mildly like Sony's best-selling action series, then Hero of Sparta does an okay job of giving you a decent impression. Those looking for a good, enjoyable game should look elsewhere though, because despite only being 50 minutes long, you're likely to get bored before it ends.